Title: Work in Progress
Characters: Joshua, Alec
Category: Angst, H/C (well my version of it, anyway)
Summary: A life threatening incident allows Joshua to see Alec's true colors.
Word Count: 1228
Disclaimer: None of them are mine. Just having fun.
Alec did not talk.
Alec always talked.
Joshua did not need to be smart like Max to understand that Alec was in danger. He was slumped on the ground by the outskirts of Terminal City, his body still and quiet with a color that reminded Joshua of sour blue candy. His eyes were open, but Joshua did not think he was seeing.
When Alec did not answer him, Joshua crouched by his side and reached over to check for the beats in his friend's neck. Joshua breathed out in relief. He could feel the beats, just like he had been taught, but they were not steady. He knew that was bad.
The vibrant colors that were Alec washed away like paint down a drain.
There was also a smell. It wasn't the usual smell that Alec had – the smell of the beer that he liked so much. Joshua sniffed the air once, twice. No, the smell burned his nose and made him feel dizzy.
Joshua prided himself on his nose as he followed the awful smell to Alec's right side. When he went to push back Alec's jacket, he grunted, surprised as Alec weakly grabbed his wrist.
"Don't touch," Alec whispered.
Joshua had a hard time understanding his voice. "You are hurt," he said. "I can help."
"Poison." Alec's eyes fluttered and he swallowed hard. "For us."
Joshua knew what that meant. Alec had left Terminal City even when Max had said no. He had been gone for a long time, so long that they had started to worry. Joshua had gone hunting for him. Now he was found.
He whimpered. He did not want Alec to die. He was not finished yet.
"I get Max," he said as he rose to his feet. "She will help."
Alec shook his head and coughed. He looked bluer now than before. The fear in Joshua started to rise as he saw Alec tremble. He did not want to leave Alec's side, but he knew that his friend would not last until the morning unless he found some help.
"I'm sorry," Alec managed to say. "Sorry for the barcode thing and the scams. All of it."
Joshua snorted. "I am not dumb, Alec. I know."
Alec did not need to be sorry. He knew that Alec's colors had started to change. His angry reds and blacks had faded to pinks and grays. Joshua had started to paint it only a month ago. One day he would show it to Alec.
"Max will help." He patted Alec's cold cheek. "You stay alive."
Alec closed his eyes and said nothing. Joshua did not wait for him to do so. He ran away into the night as fast as his legs would carry him. He chose to believe that Alec's feisty nature would keep him well until Max made everything right again.
Five days passed before Alec awoke. Ten more days passed before he could move. Joshua stayed with him every day and read him some stories from the books he had packed from his old home.
"Come on, Josh. TV, man. I need some TV."
"Max said no."
"Maxie doesn't know what's good for the soul." Alec sighed. "I'm dying here."
"No, you are living," Joshua said sternly. He placed the book down. "No more complaining."
But Alec complained some more. Joshua was happy for it.
The poison was nearly out his system now. Logan and his friends were working on trying to find out more about the poison and had also been responsible for helping Alec survive. Everyone knew it was the government type men who did it, men who did not understand. They would have to be even more careful when they snuck out of Terminal City now.
Finally, the day came when Alec could walk around. Joshua decided he would bring him a present that day.
"All right," Alec said, a grin breaking his pale face. "We're back in the art business?"
Joshua stared at the painting he had propped in the corner of Alec's room. The colors swirled together in circles and waves, blended in random splotches while others remained conflicted across the canvas. Joshua's gaze fell to the glaring blank spots.
Alec came to stand beside him. "It's not even finished."
"I call it 'Work in Progress.'"
Alec raised his eyebrows. "How…artsy of you."
With a snort, he slapped Alec on the shoulder and repeated," How artsy of you!" Alec's weakened body nearly toppled from the unexpected shove, but he managed to right himself in time. "Sorry," Joshua mumbled.
Alec just shrugged it off. "Have you been sniffing the paint again?" His grin widened. "You have, haven't you?"
"Nope. No paint sniffing." He motioned to the painting. "It is for you. No selling."
"No selling? Come on! Look at it." Alec stood beside the painting. "This…this is one of your best. I can feel it. You'll be rich, mutant freak or not."
"I said no selling."
"It is not finished."
Alec rolled his eyes. For once, Joshua was grateful for it. "Then why not finish it?"
"Not for me to decide."
"Oh nice. You've been at the philosophy books."
"No, no philosophy." Joshua stepped closer to the canvas and cocked his head as he studied the blank spots. He rammed his finger on one of the unpainted sections. "This, this, and this," he said as he moved around, "these are for you. You decide the colors. Not me."
"Then I'm taking more than my usual cut."
"Okay, okay." He winced and rolled his shoulders, his gaze stopping to focus on the painting. Alec stared at it for longer than he normally did, and for once, Joshua thought he was appreciating his work in earnest. Then, he turned to Joshua, the curiosity burning in his face like red fire. "Why do you want me to have it so bad?"
Joshua lowered his voice and gave Alec a soft, gentle pat. "You know. Yes, you know."
The cocky smile disappeared from Alec's face and the corners of his mouth twitched. His smart mouth fell silent and there was something else in his face, an emotion Joshua had never seen aimed toward him before. It reminded him of sunny warm days.
Joshua would not cry. Instead, he pointed to the canvas again. "I think some light yellow goes here."
Alec nodded, but he did not speak.
"I will get the paints." Joshua nearly skipped to the door, but decided to stay as reserved as he could. He had known that Alec had affection for him for a long time, but today he had seen the true color of that affection. It no longer stayed buried underneath the mask he wore. Joshua needed to capture the color of his friendship before it faded again.
He turned to tell Alec to wait, but he stopped at the door and said nothing. Alec was staring at the painting, the light soft colors of himself on display for everyone to see. There was still anger and sadness, mistrust and pain, but as those colors faded, more light poked through the cracks, blending and mixing, making new colors, colors that were warm and subdued, and yet full of life.
It gave Joshua hope.
Maybe the Work in Progress would be finished much sooner than Joshua had imagined.